Cultural Spaces and Events
All of our campuses feature inspiring cultural spaces, including canvas tipis and Indigenous student lounges. Our Timmins Campus is home to Ma-Mo-Keh-Nah-No (meaning Together Our Home), a unique permanent tipi with year-round access. These structures provide a space for gathering, healing and sharing. At Northern College, Indigenous Perspectives are incorporated into the curriculum.
Northern College is guided by our Indigenous Council on Education, Elders and community leaders to ensure programs, services and activities are connected to culture and tradition. Healing and sharing circles, workshops, Indigenous student assemblies, Indigenous Student Advisors and traditional events and activities are all part of the Northern experience.
Some events hosted include our Annual Pow Wow, Indigenous Cultural Awareness Week and Treaties Recognition Week events and activities, and many more.
Announcements & Updates
Indigenous Student Advising
Indigenous Advisors are available to meet with all students for any questions or needs you may have. Indigenous Advisors create a welcoming environment and ensure students are supported throughout the course of their college experience.
With our Advising Services, you will have access to peer tutoring, Elders on campus, health services and fitness centres, Indigenous student lounges and more.
For more information, please contact our Indigenous Student Advisors.
Haileybury Campus & Kirkland Lake Campus
705-567-9291 ext. 3626
705-336-2913 ext. 5603
705-235-3211 ext. 2233
Our Indigenous Student Recruitment Associate, Shane Polson (firstname.lastname@example.org), is available to help learners navigate all the options out there to pursue your education.
Academic Upgrading at Northern College offers support and services to individuals seeking to advance their education. Whether it is to obtain high school equivalent, obtain pre-requisite courses to get into a college program, or to develop computer or study skills, Academic Upgrading is here to support your pursuit of advancing your education and skills.
Many of our programs and courses are available to take through distance education options with access centres throughout the James Bay Coast to support learners in the communities of Moose Factory, Attawapiskat, Fort Albany, and Kashechewan.
Our Financial Aid Officers are here to help students navigate the many ways you can fund your education. Learn more about Financial Assistance at Northern, including the many Scholarships, Bursaries and Awards we offer, or you can find student loan information from Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) and the National Student Loans Service Centre (NSLSC).
Métis Nation of Ontario’s Métis Student Bursary Program
The Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Métis Student Bursary Program provides bursaries to registered students who are verified Métis citizens of the Métis Nation of Ontario. Applicants will be required to complete the MNO Metis Student Bursary Application and consent to an MNO citizenship verification check to confirm eligibility for these awards. To complete the application for the MNO Metis Student Bursary program, please visit: https://metisnation.smapply.io/prog/bursary_application/. If you have any questions, please direct all inquiries to: PSEsupport@metisnation.org
- Wholeness (Holistic thinking): All things are interrelated. Everything in the universe is part of a single whole. Everything is connected in some way to everything else. It is only possible to understand something if we understand how it is connected to everything else.
- Change: Everything is in a state of constant change. One season falls upon the other. People are born, live and die. All things change. There are two kinds of change: the coming together of things and the coming apart of things. Both kinds of change are necessary and are always connected to each other.
- Change occurs in cycles or patterns: They are not random or accidental. If we cannot see how a particular change is connected it usually means that our standpoint is affecting our perception.
- The physical world is real. The spiritual world is real: They are two aspects of one reality. There are separate laws which govern each. Breaking of a spiritual principle will affect the physical world and vice versa. A balanced life is one that honours both.
- People are physical and spiritual beings: When something hurts our spirit it will affect us physically and vice versa.
- People can acquire new gifts but they must struggle to do so: The process of developing new personal qualities may be called “true learning”.
- There are four dimensions of “true learning”: A person learns in a whole and balanced manner when the mental, spiritual, physical and emotional dimensions are involved in the process.
- The spiritual dimension of human development has four related capacities:
- The capacity to have and respond to dreams, visions, ideals, spiritual teaching, goals and theories;
- The capacity to accept these as a reflection of our unknown or unrealized potential;
- The capacity to express these using symbols in speech, art or mathematics;
- The capacity to use this symbolic expression towards action directed at making the possible a reality.
- People must actively participate in the development of their own potential.
- A person must decide to develop their own potential: The path will always be there for those who decide to travel it.
- Any person who sets out on a journey of self development will be aided: Guides, teachers and protectors will assist the traveler.
- The only source of failure is a person’s own failure to follow the teachings.
In our culture the oral tradition is important. We learn and are taught through stories. An Anishnawbe teaching in the clan system is an example of this. A long time ago, before humans inhabited this world, it is said that the clans were already here. Before humans arrived, the animals, fish and birds were told by Creator that humans were coming and that these humans wouldn’t have anything and would be pitiful. So each of the animals, fish and birds said, “We will take care of them and show them how to live in harmony with all of Creation. We will sacrifice ourselves as food so they won’t starve and we will supply them with our skins so they will be warm. We will teach them what medicines and ceremonies to use to heal themselves.”
These clans are still with Native people today.
Your clan is with you from the day you are born. It is said that your clan walks with you and looks after you. Your clan takes care of you so that you don’t have to go through life without help and protection. The spirit of the clan is for you to use because you are a member of that clan; you always offer tobacco when you ask your clan for help.
The Mohawks’ family oriented culture is based on the clan structure. Within the clan structure of the Six Nations, the clan is passed down through the women. Among the Anishnawbe, the children of the family are of their father’s clan. The clans of a Nation are often the animals and other creatures that inhabit the region. In the Great Lakes the wolf, bear, turtle and deer are common clans. The Anishnawbe say that their clans may be almost any animal, fish or bird. Some of the clans of the Six Nations are the Turtle, Bear, Wolf, Rock, Snipe, Pipe of Peace and the Heron.
Within a clan there may be many different types of animal, bird or fish. For example, the Turtle clan included different types of turtles, such as snapping turtles and painted turtles.
Each clan has its own duties and responsibilities. You can consult the elder clan members for the teachings of your clans.
Among the Anishnawbe, the Crane clan, for example, is involved in leadership and the sharing of knowledge, particularly teachings. Their role is one of leadership because the cranes were instrumental in establishing the clan system for the Anishnawbe. It is said that the cranes have a loud voice that can be heard for miles. When the crane gives a teaching, it can be hear far away in other parts of the world; people listen and learn when a crane teaches. The Eagle clan represents the family unit; both parents protect and bring food to the eaglets. The eagle also teaches about respect, hunting and being in balance with the environment. The Bear clan is like the guardians of the communities. They are also the protectors and carriers of medicine.
Learning Your Clan
If knowledge of your clan is lost to your family and if your search through family, church, treaty, band or school records does not reveal this information, you can offer tobacco and make a request to know your clan to a spiritual person who has the ability to find out what clan is watching over you.
Honouring Your Clan
To honour your clan is to be a brother, uncle, sister or aunt. When you meet someone of your clan who is younger than you they are considered to be your nephew or niece. When you meet someone of your clan who is of the same age, they are considered to be your brother or sister. It is your responsibility to take care of the relatives of your clan. When a clan member visits your community, you ensure that this person is taken care of. When you do this, you bring honour to your clan and yourself. Depending on what clan you belong to, you may feast your clan monthly; once or twice a year; or four times a year at the change of seasons. Many people will make their food and tobacco offering to their clan by leaving the offering outside on the ground or in the water. For example, a member of the Bullhead fish clan, the boss of all fish clans, feed the clan when the ice comes in and goes out. In the past, clans were painted on warrior shields encircled with medicine bundles. Today clan markers, items that represent your clan such as antlers, skins, skulls, a painting or carving of the clan, may be hung in a respectful manner.
Fasting is one of many ceremonies that has been practiced in First Nations communities for thousands of years. In the past, the Elders of a community would take the young people out to fast in order to help them find their direction in life. Today, as our cultural traditions and ways of healing are being revived in our communities, more Native people are seeking answers through the ceremony of fasting.
Reasons for going on a Fast
When you choose to go on a fast, it is with a purpose in mind. You may go out to seek direction in your life or you may go out to learn more about our ways and about Creation. You may fast for your spirit name and colours. Healers may fast in order to find and gain permission to use a certain plant medicine. You may fast for many other reasons. Whatever the reason for your fast, you prepare yourself beforehand through prayer and tobacco. It is said that when you fast you are sacrificing yourself for all, for your family and for your community, by denying yourself the basic comforts of shelter, water, nourishment and companionship.
Different Places and Ways Fasts are Conducted
Fasts are conducted in many different ways and in many different places. You may be put out to fast deep in the woods, in a field, on an island or a mountain. Fasters may stay in a Fasting Lodge that they themselves have constructed of saplings and tarps, they may sit on a platform in a tree with a tarpaulin to keep them dry of rains or they may Fast in a Fasting Hut. Wherever they spend their one, two, three or more days of Fasting, they will bring them the medicines (tobacco, cedar, sage and sweetgrass) or other plant medicines that may be used in their region and their sacred items such as a drum, pipe, smudge bowl, feathers and ribbons of their colours. Spring and Fall are generally the times for Fasting. Some teachings say that you Fast in the fall to take away negative energy and you Fast in the spring to replenish yourself with new energy. Healers and Elders say that Fasting has a cleansing and healing effect. Fasting has also been described as a healing way where the first person we face when we Fast is ourselves. People may Fast either in the Spring or Fall of each year. Offerings are made before the Fast, food offerings as well as tobacco. Very often Fasters will go into the sweat lodge before they are taken out to their Fasting spot and later, when they are brought in from their Fast. The Fasting conductor lets the Fasters know the duration of their Fast through the connection he or she has with the Spirit World. Firekeepers tend the sacred fire at the base camp for the duration of your Fast. The person who has put you out on your Fast looks after you while you are out. Your Fasting site might be encircled with cedar and with tobacco ties. You might build a sacred fire at your site where you offer your tobacco. However your Fasting site is set up, you are in the care of Mother Earth and your First Family.
Everything you see on a fast is important, even the little bugs around your Fasting area. You may feel closer to the sky world than you ever felt before when the sacred light from the moon and the stars brightens the sky. You may gain an increased awareness of the beauty of the natural world, our First Family. Your dreams and visions are all part of the journey. It is said that Fasting brings you closer to the spirit world and that your spirit wakes up when you are on a Fast. You may feel that the questions you’ve been asking have been answered. When you are on a Fast you have your sacred items with you; your drum so you can sing the traditional songs you have learned and the sacred medicines to help you in your prayers. It is said that when you call on the spirits with a song they will hear it and come to you.
Ending a Fast
At the end of a Fast, when the person who has taken you out to Fast comes to get you, you may be taken into a sweat lodge where you have the opportunity to talk about your Fasting experience. Your Fast may be ended by drinking spring water or cedar water and berries. A Traditional Feast is prepared for the Fasters in the celebration of the spiritual journey that the Fasters have experienced.
The conductor of a Fast has been trained and has earned the right to take people out on a Fast. The conductor does this in a certain way, in the way that he or she has been taught. The conductor of a Fast is able to tell you the Traditional Teachings of the Fast they are taking people out on. The Fasting conductor should be informed of any health condition you have before you go on a Fast.
The conductor of a Fast watches over the physical and spiritual well-being of the Fasters whom he or she takes out on a Fast. The conductor of a Fast should be able to interpret the dreams, visions and gifts that have come to you and to offer guidance about your Fasting experience.
Some Healers are called Medicine People because they work with the plant medicines. They know about plants and prepare medicines. There are special procedures for everything. If a Healer needs a powerful medicine for someone, the Healer has to find out how to get it, how to keep and store it and how it should be used and given. One plant may have five or six different uses. The Healer may need to fast in order to learn about a particular medicine. Healers say that they are continually learning.
Doctoring takes many forms. The use of medicines is one of them. Removing sickness by extraction is another. Some Healers are specialists in treating certain illnesses. For example, a Healer may have special abilities to help with heart disease or with diabetes. As Traditional Healing is holistic, if a person seeks to help for an ulcer, it is not only the ulcer that is treated. The root cause of the condition is addressed.
All Healers look at all aspects of the individual – the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical – as they are interrelated. There are some who describe the work they do in terms of working with energy, the mind and the spirit. They might work with eagle feathers to get to the core of the problem.
Counseling is an intrinsic part of all Healing, but there are Healers whose particular gift is to use words to heal. Some communities have seers who it is said can see backwards and forwards.
Healers may perform doctoring during a Sweat Lodge ceremony or they may take care of you when you go on your Fast for healing. They may work through the Shaking Tent to advise and prescribe and they may support you when you participate in the Sundance.
A Traditional Elder is someone who follows the teachings of our ancestors. It is said the Traditional Elders walk and talk the good way of life. Traditional Elders teach and share the wisdom they have gained of the culture, history and the language. The sharing of their wisdom is healing. An Elder does not have to be a senior but could be someone younger who has many teachings and who has earned the respect of their community by contributing to its spiritual development.
Visiting with Healers, Elders and Medicine People
When you go to a Healer, Elder or Medicine Person, be yourself, be respectful to them and to yourself. Take tobacco to give as an offering. Tobacco is meant for that communication between you, the Healer and the Creator. The tobacco can be in any form. For example, it can be one cigarette from a pack, a pack of cigarettes, it can be a pouch of tobacco or it can be loose tobacco wrapped in a small square of cloth (called a tobacco tie). Talk to the Healer, Elder or Medicine Person and explain to them why you have come to them. Women schedule their appointments with Healers for times when they are not on their moontime. Other gifts can be given to express your gratitude for the help you have received. This may be in the form of a basket or blanket or it could be money. There are certain protocols specific to each Healer, Elder of Medicine Person. Many Healers will have helpers that will convey these protocols to you. For example, they will let you know whether you may receive treatment after having chemotherapy.
Moontime and Grandmother Moon
Native people know that everything in Creation has spirit. The plants, the trees, the water, the wind, the rocks and the mountains have spirit. The sky worlds, including the moon and other planets have spirit. All of these are part of our First Family, the natural world. The Moon is called Grandmother Moon and great respect is paid to her.
Recognition of the Moon in the Calendar
The cycles of the moon determine our yearly calendar. The changes that come with each passing moon indicate the times for planting, harvesting, hunting and gathering. In the Anishnawbe calendar the names of each month include the word ‘moon’ and reflect the close connection between cycles of the moon and plant and animal life on Turtle Island.
Grandmother Moon: Female Energy
It is said that Grandmother Moon watches over the waters of the Earth. We see this in her regulating of the tides. Grandmother Moon controls all female life. Much of water life spawns according to the cycles of the moon. It is said that Grandmother Moon is especially close to women because she governs the woman’s cleansing cycle of menstruation known as moontime. Just as Grandmother Moon watches over the waters of the Earth, it is said that women watch over the waters of the people. Water always comes before new life.
It is said that the moon cycle is a gift to women. It is a time to cleanse herself mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. The moontime is considered a time of power, second only to the ability of the Great Spirit to give life. That is how strong that power is. Women can ask Grandmother Moon for direction in life, for wisdom and for help for her children and others. Grandmother Moon can give her healing and balancing energy to women. Some teachings say that when women are on their moontime the Creator comes closer to them. When women are on their moontime their power is at its strongest, this is acknowledged in that they do not prepare foods or medicines, take part in ceremonies or use the pipes and other sacred items. The moontime is a ceremony of life for women and a time for renewal. The moontime is a time for women to relax and take it easy. All the chores are done by other family members. It is a time for women to think about themselves, their family, their relatives or anyone they think needs help. It is a time of reflection.
Teachings on the Moontime
In the past when young women had her first moontime her aunties or grandmothers would take her to a small lodge where she could be close to the natural world. The young woman is sacred at this time. She is now able to give life. Her mother, grandmothers or aunties would give her the teachings about her new life. She would be taught about her role as a woman in the community.
Honouring Grandmother Moon
Some teachings say that when the moon is full women can ask Grandmother Moon to give them new energy. Around the full moon women on their moontime become very intuitive. It is an opportunity for women to take time for themselves to help foster their intuition and to have strong dreams. When the moon is full a woman can do a ceremony to honour and seek guidance from Grandmother Moon. The ceremony can be simple. A woman can sit on the ground and ask Grandmother Moon to replenish her body with new energy. She takes water with her which she asks the Moon to bless. That water then becomes her medicine. Full moon ceremonies are held in many communities. The ceremony may differ from place to place. It is held either on the Full Moon or two days before or after a Full Moon, depending on the teachings given to the women in a particular community. Women gather in a circle from infancy to old age. They drum and sing. Tobacco is placed in the fire and women ask for the cleansing of the Earth, as the water, lakes, river and oceans constitute women’s responsibility. In some communities at the Full Moon ceremony each woman brings a container of water. They pour this water into one bowl and this water is offered to Grandmother Moon and to the Earth. At the end of the ceremony the water, now called moon water, can be used as a medicine during the month.
When we carry sacred items we carry them with recognition that everything in Creation has spirit, including the animals and plants, the rocks, the water, the moon and the stars. Even one feather of a bird has spirit. When we carry a feather in our bundle and use it for our personal prayers and ceremony, we are calling on the spirit of that bird for help and guidance.
A pipe can be a Grandmother or a Grandfather. Usually when women carry it, it is referred to as a Grandmother and when men carry it, it is referred to as a Grandfather. The pipe itself represents the woman and man, the bowl representing the woman and the stem, the man. The pipe was given to Native people as a way of communicating with the Creator; a direct link is formed. When the pipe is smoked or touched, people are putting their thoughts and prayers into it.
The drum is the heartbeat of our people; it is the heartbeat of life. We live the first nine months of our lives within our mothers and we listen to the heartbeat; it sets the pattern of existence.
There are various types of drumsticks. Some people refer to the drumstick as being part of the Thunderbirds. Other teachings say that the drumstick is the arm of the Great Spirit who gives us a heartbeat.
It is said that before the Creator made everyone the universe was in darkness and the only sound was the sound that a shaker makes; the shaking of seeds in a gourd. The spirits are drawn in when many people use their shakers as they sing a song.
The eagle is one of the ones that is closest to the Creator because he can fly so high and he spoke for the people. In the old ways, if you did something remarkable for your people you had the right to an eagle feather. If a warrior proved himself in battle, facing an enemy, he received a feather. Today, the greatest enemy Native people face is alcohol and drugs. If you are in battle with one of these, you are in a battle for your life. When you overcome alcohol or drugs, you have won the battle and you become a warrior. You earn an eagle feather and you have to live by it. It is a high honour to receive an eagle feather.
Many First Nations people who follow their traditional teachings will have sacred items to help and guide them. A sacred bundle can consist of one or many sacred items. It can be the little tobacco pouch that someone wears around their neck or it can be the items that the spirits have given to a person to carry for the people.
You may have a personal bundle that you have built with items you have gathered and that you take care of. This bundle is sacred to you. It contains items that help you in your personal development; it contains items that have given you a teaching and that you use in ceremonies. Maybe your parents or your grandparents or an Elder gave you something to help you on your path. All the contents of your bundle relate to you. Your personal bundle may include medicines, your drum, a bowl, a rock, your colours, a feather, a staff, a rattle and your pipe. You may also carry a clan marker, something that represents your clan, such as a bear claw if you are of the Bear clan. Tobacco is always first in your bundle. These items remind us of the beauty of Creation.
Bundles for the People
The bundles for the people are used for healing and ceremonies. It is said that these bundles contain things that the Nations need to survive. The Healers who carry the medicine bundles say they do not own these bundles. They say that our people’s understanding is that we do not own anything, not even our physical body which is given back to the earth when we die. They carry these items as gifts for the people. The Healers who take care of these bundles have been chosen by the spirits to carry on the teachings, the work and the responsibilities that come with these bundles.
Respecting and Honouring Sacred Items and Bundles
Some people display their sacred items in a special room on an alter. Others keep them in the bundle until they are ready to use in ceremony. Some leave their feathers out as they may have been given to them to create calmness in the home. People feast their sacred items four times a year with the seasons or twice a year in the Spring and Fall. Some people feast them every time they do a ceremony.
The beating of the drum helps us listen to our soul so we can understand our purpose and our connection to each other in the Circle of Life. The drum is female and human. The big drum was a gift from the women to the men a very long time ago, so that men could experience a resonant connection to the Earth Mother that naturally occurs with women. This is why it has been a tribal custom (in most tribes) that women not sit at the drum or play it.
For First Nations Peoples, the drum represents the universal heartbeat of Mother Earth, the Universal goddess and mother to us all. The first sound that was heard in the world was the heartbeat of Mother Earth. First Nations Peoples manifest this heartbeat through playing a special rhythm on the drum. This Rhythm facilitates healing and realignment of the four realms of human existence (Mental, Spiritual, Emotional and Physical) because the Creator revolves around the rhythm. The drum, when combined with the voice, creates a hum that rests between the voice and the drum and is thought to be the spirits of the Ancestors. Therefore, First Nations drums are not percussion instruments per se or a toy, they are considered female and human because of their tie to the earth. When playing a drum, it should never be hammered in an aggressive way as this suggests it’s a ‘beating’, and one may never hit a woman.
One of the reasons that the earth is being destroyed at such an alarming rate is the disconnect that humans have with her. We no longer hear her heartbeat. We lose ourselves in our quest for security through the acquisition of material possessions, paying little heed to the devastating cost to the environment in our zeal to have ‘stuff’ and look ‘good’. The drum is a constant reminder of our responsibility towards the preservation and health of Mother Earth.
The Voice of the Drum
Just like humans, each drum has its own very unique voice and vibration. Each animal from which the drum is made has its own unique medicine: its spirit is part of the drum. IN order to give a drum its voice it needs to be ‘birthed’ in a sacred ceremony. Until the Drum Birthing Ceremony takes place the drum should not be played. During ceremony, the drum is first dedicated to the Creator. The drum is a sacred object and when not in use it should be shrouded in its own bag made of natural materials such as 100% cotton or animal hide. Hanging the drum on a wall as an art piece diminishes its voice. You wouldn’t hang a human on the wall to be admired, and as the drum is human it should not be put there either. The drum should always be placed skin side up as a sign of respect. Prayers are said each time the drum is used. The prayers are to ask the Creator for the ability to sing in a good way; to thank the Creator for the animal that gave its life to become the hide for the drum; for the people who hear, that they be blessed and feel good when they hear the songs played. In other words, the drum is prayed for before it comes to the person, dedicated in prayer before it is used and prayed for before each use.
Ownership of the Drum & Drum Etiquette
The drum is the exclusive property of the person who made it, purchased it, traded for it, had it given to them as a gift or prayed for it. It is not community property unless that is its purpose. If the drum belongs to an individual, then permission must be given by that individual for anyone else to even touch it, much less play it. Keep reminding yourself that the drum is human and one does not touch other humans without permission.
The Magic of Drumming Circles
People from many different backgrounds are getting together to create connections through the sheer joy of drum rhythms. Drumming circles are the ultimate stress reducer. It is a time for everyone to get together and just be. Natural bio-chemicals in the body are released which help boost the immune system, among other things. Inner chatter is instantly quieted and a peaceful meditative state is often the result as the drum connects with your own heartbeat. Adults re-learn how to play and have fun. The drum is the ear of the Great Mystery and peace on earth becomes a reality.
Messages From the Drum
I am Mother Earth’s heartbeat and the sacred gift of Creation.
I am the universal heartbeat of the seen and unseen worlds.
I put the drummer in touch with creation itself.
I speak to all people equally and peacefully.
I fulfill and create spiritual, mental, emotional and physical balance.
I am a powerful non-verbal form of peaceful communication.
I am the practice of peace.
I am renewal, re-growth and fulfillment.
I am the pulse of the universe.
I am alert, alive and ready to move the drummer to another state of consciousness.
My top represents the sky.
My bottom represents the earth.
My stitching represents the warriors for peace who play me.
I am the ancient wisdom of the Ancestors.
The hand of the drummer is never raised in anger.
The hand of the drummer should not be raised above the heart, for I am peace.
I release tension, emotional stress and mental fatigue.
I reconnect with the natural rhythms of the drummer.
I remind you that Creation is alive and sacred.
I take you to the dream world to let your unconscious speak with your conscious in safety and harmony.
When you play with me there is a synchronization of energy, a unity and a common purpose.
When you hear the rhythm of the group drumming and contribute your beat, you are listening and playing receptive and creative at the same time. All My Relations.
Tobacco is the first plant that the Creator gave to First Nations Peoples. It is the main activator of all the plant spirits. Three other plants, sage, cedar and sweetgrass, follow tobacco, and together they are referred to as the Four Sacred Medicines. The Four Sacred Medicines are used in everyday life and in ceremonies. All of them can be used to smudge with, though sage, cedar and sweetgrass also have many other uses. It is said that tobacco sits in the eastern door, sweetgrass in the southern door, sage in the western door and cedar in the northern door. Elders say that the spirits like the aroma produced when we burn tobacco and the other sacred medicines. Traditional people say that tobacco is always first. It is used as an offering for everything and in every ceremony. “Always through tobacco”, as the saying goes.
Traditional tobacco was given to us so that we can communicate with the spirit world. It opens up the door to allow that communication to take place. When we make an offering of tobacco, we communicate our thoughts and feelings through the tobacco as we pray for ourselves, our family, relatives and others. Tobacco has a special relationship to other plants: it is said to be the main activator of all the plant spirits. It is like the key to the ignition of a car. When you use it all things begin to happen. Tobacco is always offered before picking medicines. When you offer tobacco to a plant and explain why you are there, that plant will let all the plants in the area know why you are coming to pick them. When you seek the help and advice of an Elder, Healer or Medicine Person and give your offering of tobacco, they know that a request may be made as tobacco is so sacred. We express our gratitude for the help the spirits give us through our offering of tobacco. It is put down as an offering of thanks to the First Family, the natural world, after a fast. Traditional people make an offering of tobacco each day when the sun comes up. Traditional tobacco is still grown in some communities. For example, the Mohawk people use traditional tobacco that they grow themselves and that is very sacred to them.
Sage is used to prepare people for ceremonies and teachings. Because it is more medicinal and stronger than sweetgrass, it tends to be used more often in ceremonies. Sage is used for releasing what is troubling the mind and for removing negative energy. It is also used for cleansing homes and sacred items. It also has other medicinal uses. There is male sage and female sage. The female sage is used by women.
Sweetgrass is used in prayer, smudging and purifying ceremonies. It is usually braided, dried and burned. It is usually burned at the beginning of a prayer or ceremony to attract positive energies.
Like sage and sweetgrass, cedar is used to purify the home. It also has many restorative medicinal uses. Cedar baths are healing. When cedar is put in the fire with tobacco, it crackles. When it does this, it is calling the attention of the spirits to the offering that is being made. Cedar is used in fasting and sweat lodge ceremonies as a form of protection: cedar branches cover the floor of the sweat lodge and a circle of cedar surrounds the faster’s lodge.
The Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers is a set of teachings about human conduct towards ourselves and others. The teachings were given to the First Nations Peoples early in their history. Seven Grandfathers asked their messenger to take a survey of the human condition. At that time the human condition was not very good. Eventually in his quest, the messenger came across a child. After receiving approval from the Seven Grandfathers, he tutored the child in the Good Way of Life. Each of the Seven Grandfathers instructed the child with a principle.
Wisdom – to cherish knowledge is to know Wisdom. Wisdom is given by the Creator to be used for the good of the People. In the Anishinawbe language this word expresses not only ‘wisdom’ but also means ‘prudence’ and ‘intelligence’. In addition to ‘wisdom’ this word can also mean ‘intelligence’ and ‘knowledge’.
Love – to know love is to know peace. Love must be unconditional. When people are weak they need love the most.
Respect – to honour all Creation is to have respect. All of Creation should be treated with respect. You must give respect if you wish to be respected.
Bravery – is to face the foe with integrity. In the Anishinawbe language, this word literally means ‘state of having a fearless heart’. To do what is right even when the consequences are unpleasant.
Honesty – in facing a situation is to be brave. Always be honest in word and action. Be honest first with yourself, and you will more easily be able to be honest with others. This word can also mean ‘righteousness’.
Humility – is to know oneself as a sacred part of Creation. This word can also mean compassion, calmness, meekness, gentility or patience. You are equal to others but you are not better.
Truth – is to know all of these things. Speak the truth. Do not deceive yourself or others.
- Give thanks to the Creator each morning upon rising and each evening before sleeping. Seek the courage and strength to be a better person.
- Showing respect is a basic law of life.
- Respect the wisdom of people in council. Once you give an idea it no longer belongs to you, it belongs to everybody.
- Be truthful at all times.
- Always treat your guests with honour and consideration. Give your best food and comforts to your guests.
- The hurt of one is the hurt of all. The honour of one is the honour of all.
- Receive strangers and outsiders kindly.
- All races are children of the Creator and must be respected.
- To serve others, to be of some use to family, community or nation is one of the main purposes for which people are created. True happiness comes to those who dedicate their lives to the service of others.
- Observe moderation and balance in all things.
- Know those things that lead to your well-being and those things that lead to your destruction.
- Listen to and follow the guidance given to your heart. Expect guidance to come in many forms: in prayer; in dreams; in solitude and in the words and actions of Elders and friends.
- Timmins Native Friendship Centre (TNFC)
- Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO)
- Mushkegowuk Council
- National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC)
- Ojibway & Cree Cultural Centre
- Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres
- Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA)
- Wabun Tribal Council
- Anti-Hunger Coalition
- Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board (CDSSAB)
- Kunuwanimano Child & Family Services
- Timmins Native Non-Profit Housing Corporation
Mental Health Services